5 Ways to Prevent Acropora Coral Deaths - FishOfHex

Travis, with Fis of Hex, goes over his top 5 ways to prevent the death of Acropora SPS corals which if followed should also avoid the death of LPS and Softies as well.

5 - Stability

Make sure to keep stable water parameters and make sure you are testing your water parameters often. Ideally, you should check all of the key water parameters every week or at least every other week. The main water parameters you want to check ate Alkalinity, Calcium, Magnesium, Nitrates, Phosphates, Temperature, and Salinity.

Depending on the type of reef tank you have, for Travis, he testes his Alkalinity every Wednesday and Sunday and he tries to test everything else once a week. Sometimes he will push his Calcium and Magnesium test out to once a month. He keeps a close eye on his tank and may test sooner depending on how his tank is reacting, and that is the schedule that works for him.

If you have a reef tank and only have time to test, for one thing, the one thing suggested to check would be Alkalinity (Alk). Alk is one of the most important water parameters in your tank. Especially for an SPS tank and even more critical for an Acropora tank. Stable Alk water parameter is key to success. Alkalinity consists of bicarbonate (HcO3) and carbonate (CO3), coral process BiCarbinate into Carbonate which they use to build their calcium carbonate skeletons. So by have enough Alk in the tank it allows the SPS coral to continue growing their skeleton structure.

Low Alk could be the cause of think skeleton structure on SPS colonies or could even stress the coral out and cause them to STN (Slow Tissue Necrussis) or RTN (Rapid Tissue Necrussuis) so providing your reef tank a stable ALK of 9 or 10 dKh is always best. To maintain your ALk, you can do it via a calcium reactor, two-part dosing, or even kalkwasser but be mindful of how much you dose at any given time to avoid any large spike changes in your tank. So you do not want to quickly go from 7 dKh to 9 or 10dKh, doing so can shock Acropora corals and kill them.

Make sure to test using a reliable tester too. Travis uses the Hanna Marine Alkalinity Checker and the Hanna Low Phosphate Range Checker. You want to make sure you are getting precise numbers for these two water parameters, and the Hanna checker provides those. For Calcium I use the Red Sea Calcium Pro Test Kit, for Magnesium I also use the Red Sea Magnesium Pro Test Kit, for Salinity I use the Milwaukee Salinity Refractometer, and for the temperature I monitor it with a Neptune Apex Controller but I also check it with some random probes from time to time to make sure its not off.

4 - Lighting 

You want to maintain the optimal par and Spectrum over your corals.

PAR Range

PAR is your active photosynthetic radiation, which is the intensity of the light. Travis likes to maintain a range of 250 - 350 for his tanks and his client tanks most corals will do well in that PAR range some LPS and softies can easily survive in sub 200 PAR, but most SPS and Acropora will need the PAR to be above 250. In my 300 gallon tank at the bottom of the tank, I have a PAR range fo about 250, and at the very top of the tank, the PAR is around 700.

Make a note of the type of lights and possible even PAR rating of the corals you get. If you get a coral that had been in a PAR range of 100, and then you place the coral at the top of your tank with a PAR of 700 it will shock the coral and kill it. This does not mean that the coral will not survive in a high PAR setting, but it needs to be acclimated to that light intensity.

There are many PAR testing solutions out there, Travis uses the Seneye Reef which you can pick up for about $200, it will serve the purpose and also can be used to monitor water parameters in your tank. If you do not wish to spend $200, you can always rent a PAR meet from Bulk Reef Supply for about $50. The PAR meter they rent is a high-end PAR meter, you will have to make sure you have enough fund for the deposit you have to provide, but you will get that back when you return it.

It's suggested to use a PAR meter when you make changes to your lights or even once a year to give you an idea of how your lights are doing.


Spectrum is different from PAR. The Spectrum is the wavelengths or the color the lights are producing that is reaching your coral. The suggested Spectrum for coral growth is between 370 - 500 nanometers in laymen's terms you want to stick to the violet and blue colors, deep blues and deep purples that what they mean with that nanometer range.

In the wild the only color that reaches the corals is the blues, all of the reds, greens, and white get filtered our through the water, and we are left with the blue/violet spectrum, and that is what the zooxanthellae of the corals use to create energy and continue to grow.

You may wonder why your LED lights allow you to adjust your red, green, and white spectrums? Those colors are there, and they will enable you to adjust the full Spectrum even the blues and violets so that we can create spectrums that are more pleasant to your eyes. The red, green, and white spectrums do not do anything for coral growth.

You want to avoid less expensive lights that can not reach the ideal PAR or Spectrum range. They may be pleasant to look at but will prevent coral growth or event kill colors. You also want to avoid using plant blubs for coral growth how they will not have the ideal Spectrum for corals.

Travis 300 gallon uses 8 Radion XR15 LED lights and 8 T5 Bulbs 4 Blue Plus and 4 Actinic Bulbs. The Radions start at 0% on all of the Spectrum and then raps up to 15% Red, 15% Green, 100% Blue, 100% Royal Blue, 100% UV, 25% Cool White, 25% White and 100% Violet. All of the key spectrum wavelengths that focus on coral growth are set to 100%. This is Tavis take of the AB+ Spectrum on the Ecotech website the main change that I did was the reduction of red and green spectrums as they do on their AB+ settings.

3 - Experience Level

Buy corals that are tailored to your experience level. If you are just getting started in the hobby and you have some softies and LPS corals in your tank, then you do not need to be going out and buying Acropora corals. Maybe start with some simpler SPS corals first. The chances are that you are not ready for them yet. If you have a good grasp on your water chemistry, parameter fluctuation, and knowledge on how to keep your parameters stable then, by all means, try your hand at Acropora corals. Just keep in mind that corals are living animals, you do not want to toss one in the tank to see if it could survive.

Try to stay within your comfort zone. Hard coral also means more time spent on your tank. An excellent coral to start testing SPS when you are ready could be Montipora corals, the plating and branching digitata's and fairly forgiving corals to begin with. Once you can keep then you can try some Millipora Acropora corals, they are the more forgiving Acropora corals.

2 - Trimming Corals

Make sure to trim corals to prevent coral deaths, when two different SPS come in contact. Coral war fair occurs, it may sound cool, but in the end, one of the corals dies there is always going to be a winner. This is something that most of us do not like to do but required if you want to keep healthy Acropora reef tank.

It is not that hard to do. You use a pair of bone cutters and snip off the pieces that are getting close to other corals. It's like trimming the hedges in your lawn. You can shape it any way you want. These pieces of corals that you cut can be glued onto a frag plug and can be sold or traded. If you do not want to deal with meeting someone you can also typically trade them into your Local Fish Store (LFS) they will generally give you store credit. An excellent way to offset the cost of additives or salt.

After you cut a coral (frag it) if you want to sell/trade it, then you want to keep it in the original water it was in to allow it to heal. Cutting the coral will stress it out, if it is stressed out and then you change the water parameters on it by moving it into another tank right away it will get stressed out and causee STN or RTN issues.

1 - Quarintene Coral

This is the #1 thing you can do. The most frequent coral epidemic occurred due to hitchhiker that was attached to a new coral. Quarantine systems do not have to take up much space and can also be inexpensive. The proper use of a quarantine system can prevent Acropora eating flatworms, something as small as an egg could be attached to the coral, which would be very difficult to spot. Once hatched, they multiply quickly and can destroy an Acropora system in no time. There are many other pests that can be brought in by not quarantining new species. Flatworms are just one of the more common and malicious ones that no one wants to get. There are also Monitpora eating nudibranchs, flatworms, asterina starfish.

These are Travis 5 ways to prevent death in an Acropora Reef tank, did Travis miss something? Do you want to add a #6, if so comment below?

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